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An American Crime (2007)

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The true story of suburban housewife Gertrude Baniszewski, who kept a teenage girl locked in the basement of her Indiana home during the 1960s.


3,943 ( 352)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paula Baniszewski
Shirley Baniszewski (as Hannah Leigh Dworkin)
Reverend Bill Collier
Marie Baniszewski
Hope Orbach
Patricia Place ...
Mrs. Doyle
Calvin Keet ...
Mr. Doyle


Based on a true story that shocked the nation in 1965, the film recounts one of the most shocking crimes ever committed against a single victim. Sylvia and Jennie Fae Likens, the two daughters of traveling carnival workers are left for an extended stay at the Indianapolis home of single mother Gertrude Baniszewski and her six children. Times are tough, and Gertrude's financial needs cause her to make this arrangement before realizing how the burden will push her unstable nature to a breaking point. What transpires in the next three months is both riveting and horrific. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


This has been the most terrible crime ever committed in the state of Indiana See more »


Biography | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong and disturbing depiction of child abuse and torture | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 December 2007 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

The Basement  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


This movie was the second attempt to tell Sylvia Likens' story on the big screen and the first one to be successful. In the early 1980s there were moves to make a movie about Sylvia but they were dropped in the face of intense opposition from Sylvia's sister Jenny. It wasn't until after Jenny's death in 2004 that efforts to tell the events of 1965 in a movie were revived. See more »


Marlboro "Blue Pack" ( formerly known as "Milds") cigarettes can be seen behind the counter of the convenience store. This variety did not exist until 1999. See more »


Shirley Baniszewski: Don't worry Jennie. Mamma's just teaching her.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The final credit states "Sylvia Likens, 1949-1965". See more »


Referenced in The 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards (2009) See more »


Rules of Love
Written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell
Performed by The Orlons
Courtesy of ABKCO Music & Records, Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A Truly Disturbing Story That Everyone Should Know About!!!!
23 April 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Let me begin by saying, I believe this story is one that everyone should be familiar with. And for that, I would recommend people see this movie. But I do not think the film, in itself, was the quality I would've liked it to be.

The scenes seem to be too conservative at times. And the flashbacks to what had happened, previously, give the viewer an outside perspective of things. And it is that omniscient point of view that keeps the viewer from really becoming involved in the story.

I think Ellen Page did an incredible job of acting. And I truly love her movies. But I wonder if the people making this film were so afraid of insulting certain persons that they did not want to submerge themselves into a truly emotional reenactment of what had actually happened.

Bottom line: If you want a story that is presented to you in segments, then by all means, watch this movie. But if you want a truly disturbing film that puts you in the eyes of the victim, and makes you feel sick to your stomach... then there are other movies based on the same event that are much more involved!!!

64 of 83 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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